Week Eight--Championship Season
Saturday @ Conference--Libertyville's Adler Park:
The last time we raced at this course, the weather was ridiculously hot, and the course intimidated us a bit. Since then, we have run hills at Beulah, Wadsworth, Sunset and more. We have race courses with more hills. We have strengthened that weakness. This week, I was pleased with our work on the track, too; you looked speedy and light on your feet--two traits of peaking at the right time. And when I entered the weightroom on Saturday, I felt a calm across our team that I thought would be a sign of great things to come. After Kristen Whiteside's wise words about patience and growth over time, I was ready to see you all race well.
Our Varsity boys started things off right with two All-Conference finishes by Collin (4th) and Michael (16th) and a solid team race. After seeing their success, I hoped our Varsity women would take inspiration. At the gun, I was pleased to see an aggressive start and good use of the hill. Coming off the first loop, Jocelyn was in great position in the top pack of the race, and Julia was right with her. Mary had a great start, too, as did Jacqueline. Lainey, Taylor, and Shayla were a little further back than I would prefer, but I knew that they had each other to help move up in the race. Karyn and Steff were not far off this pack, and Tianna--although with a conservative start--was working hard to pass people. The highlight of the race was Jo. She has raced well all season, but the look in her eye today was something different. She was feeding off the other racers, and she was determined to be in the top pack. With about a half mile to go, Jo was in All-Conference position (about 18th place) and looking aggressive. While the remainder of our runners had solid races, I am concerned about the gaps. You have all run the same workouts this season, so I KNOW that you are capable of being closer together. The magic and power of our opening race at Deerfield is still in you. The confidence you exhibited at home just last week is still in you. Our focus this coming week is to work with each other...to focus on WE. To recommit to what we established as goals this summer. To energize ourselves with the power of the pack. I know that we can tighten up each position and eliminate "enemy" jerseys in between our pack members. I know that we can finish with more power because we have stayed committed to the long run all season, and we have run negative splits in nearly every workout. I know that we can beat Warren again (nice job, by the way!), take out Mundelein, and defeat Deerfield. I know that we can advance to the Waukegan Sectional as a team.
Here's how we will do it.
On Monday, we are going to run a mile time trial. I need you to mentally prepare to feel fast. It starts with taking care of yourselves today. Get your homework out of the way, eat great meals, and get a good night's rest. When you wake up, think about how far you have come as a TEAM this season. During passing periods at school, use the crowded hallways as a mental boost...imagine that each unsuspecting student is a Mundelein, Warren, and Deerfield runner. As we warm up at practice, feed your teammates positivity. Talk about how much hard work we have done. Complement each other about something good that happened at Conference. Feel the great energy of a pack of women on a mission. At the starting line, remind yourself: "we are strong," "we work hard," "we don't make excuses." Once the trial is off, use the boys to help you go beyond what you have done before. When you feel tiredness, remind yourself that you must take the next step to make US stronger. Remind yourself that you must push through to make OUR goals come true. Remind yourself of what Kristen said: that she PRd at the Chicago marathon by trusting her training and trying something new--going out hard. And at the finish, feel fast, drive your arms, and find that extra boost for your girls.
All week, our practices will be focused on unifying the team to WE.
And on race day? That's your job. Do some research this week. Look at the race results from Conference. Look at how we can dismantle Mundelein. Look at how we can ensure another win over Warren. Look at Deerfield's times on a fast course for their Conference Meet. Plan for how we will succeed.
I'm not sure why the Open Women raced second, but the why doesn't matter. On the starting line, Takyra's positive words fed the already focused group. Ashley had the most aggressive start, but all of our open women looked strong after the first loop. As I headed to the woods to watch the passing, I was happy to see our bees working to pass sleepy runners who were way too happy to stay on the line (and sometimes walk?). What impressed me most about this group was that while there were three falls (Takyra, Alyssa, and Naya), there were zero excuses or pity parties. I watched each of you (whether you literally fell or not) work to "get back up" throughout the race. Ashley was by far our most consistent racer of the day, earning a season PR of 23:37, while Naya, Alyssa, and Kristina did a great job of each bringing down their third mile times to finish strong. I was also happy to hear several of you ask to continue practicing in the following week, and possibly race again after the Regional. I love that hunger! Overall, I felt really satisfied with the fight of this group--nice work!
Before the Frosh/Soph race, the girls had a moment with Alexia that I can only describe as transformative. These women came to the line with purpose and focus, and their starts showed it! Kaila had her most aggressive start of the season, looking amazing as she used the downhill to stick with the top pack. The remainder of our group had the same mindset coming down the hill, with Victoria nearly running me over as I tried to snap pictures! As I moved to other sections of the course, I was amazed by the aggressiveness of each member of this group. Not only did everyone take coaching and put it into action (passing packs or individuals on demand), they used Jo's advice of "free speed" on the downhills to their advantage. Kaila took the biggest risk of the day, and it paid off by her ending as our first bee. Emily ran the best all-around race of the day by running very even splits and bringing her third mile back down to the same time as her first; her consistency earned her a new LPR by 28 seconds (over her previous best at Warren--that's an impressive feat!). Way to go, Emily! Victoria also looked incredibly strong by running even splits as well and passing on command. Daz, as always, passed with authority and focus, while Diana had the bravest race of the day; she ran her first almost-post-plague race with courage and determination. Carmen worked on her consistency, too, passing several other runners right after her two-mile so that she could bring her last mile time down. Angie gets the biggest kudos of this group, as she continues to drop amazing amounts of time in each race of the season. She worked hard throughout the race, even after running a LPR at the mile of 9:37, in order to run an overall LPR of 31:08. She dropped 2:04 from her previous race--outstanding!
The positive feeling from all of our races fed into our link session after the awards. I felt great getting on the bus, and I can't wait to see you all beast the time trial on Monday! Nice work, bees!
Please bee thinking about our two awards that we will vote for on Monday. You can vote for both men and women, and you can only vote for people who have been on the team for at least two seasons. Check out the definitions below to get yourself thinking!
The MVP award is a very serious honor. Most valuable signifies that the runner contributes in every way: he/she leads through words and actions year round; he/she encourages positive attitudes; he/she strives to keep practices and meets challenging, competitive and fun. His/her hard work and speed set him/her apart at meets and at practice. Essentially, this person defines dedication to Cross-Country.
Outsiders view Cross-Country as an individual sport: the times are individually taken and a runner can compete in the State Meet without his/her team. True Cross-Country runners know that the spirit of the sport is embodied by the team concept…that no one individual is more important than another. Every successful team can attribute its success to a leader who stepped up, who sacrificed, who united everyone in order to help the team grow. A true leader possesses the heart and compassion to help the team become LINKED.
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